East Tenn. developer Mike Ross seeks new trial

By Josh Flory Knoxville News Sentinel
While a jury has returned a multi-million-dollar verdict in the civil suit filed by Stooksbury against his former business partner, the legal wrangling has continued apace. This month, Ross the Maryville developer behind Rarity Communities filed a motion seeking a new trial in the civil suit filed by Stooksbury.
The dispute centers on Rarity Pointe, a waterfront community in Loudon County. The two men had teamed up with Knoxville attorney Ward Whelchel on the project, but in 2009 Stooksbury filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Ross and other defendants of a variety of transgressions, which the defendants denied. This year, though, the developer was hit with a default judgment in the case after failing to adequately respond to discovery requests, and a jury recommended millions in damages.

In seeking a new trial, Ross said among other things that the court erred in imposing default judgment on the issue of discovery when the defendants had "substantially complied" with a court order and when Stooksbury had the discovery he requested. He also cited problems created when his lead counsel withdrew from the case, and argued that the jury lacked a sufficient evidentiary basis to award RICO damages.

In an email, Stooksbury attorney Wayne Ritchie said a response will likely be filed this week, outlining "the reasons Defendants' motion is without merit and should be denied."

On the same day that Ross filed for a new trial, Stooksbury applied for a writ of garnishment, aimed at forcing a variety of lenders to identify how much money Ross and the various defendants have on deposit. As of Wednesday, at least six banks had filed answers detailing the amount of money on deposit by Ross or entities related to Rarity Pointe.

During a damages trial earlier this year, a jury said Stooksbury was due more than $11 million in compensatory damages and tacked on $15 million in punitive damages against Ross and a host of other defendants. Ritchie said in an email that the writs of garnishment are among the steps being taken on Stooksbury's behalf to collect the judgment.